Dylan Farrow writes brave open letter about abuse by Woody Allen

Dylan Farrow

Credit: Frances Silver via The New York Times

*Trigger warning*

Last month, after Woody Allen received the lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, Mia and Roonan Farrow took to Twitter to denounce Hollywood’s continued acceptance of a man accused of sexually abusing his seven-year-old daughter. This weekend, Dylan Farrow herself wrote an open letter, detailing the sickening crimes and condemning the way the culture has failed her–and all survivors of sexual abuse.

Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.

Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.

But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.

What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?

Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

Farrow’s letter was posted on Nicholas Kristof’s blog at the Times, and in a sad but unsurprising nod to rape culture, Kristof includes this caveat in his intro: ”It’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and has consistently denied wrongdoing; he deserves the presumption of innocence.” At The New Inquiry, Aaron Bady cuts straight to the problem at the heart of this mealy-mouthed equivocation. “The damnably difficult thing about all of this, of course, is that you can’t presume that both are innocent at the same time. One of them must be saying something that is not true. But ‘he said, she said’ doesn’t resolve to ‘let’s start by assume she’s lying,’ except in a rape culture, and if you are presuming his innocence by presuming her mendacity, you are rape cultured.”

Anyway, as Roxane Gay notes at Salon, the point of public discussion of this matter shouldn’t be to decide what really happened. (Though, like Gay, I too “would rather stand where I stand and eventually be proven wrong than support Woody Allen and eventually be proven wrong.”) It’s to ask why it is massively more likely Allen is guilty than not. To ask why, despite this fact, survivors who do speak up are always, always doubted. And to ask, as Farrow demands of us, what message that is sending the many, many others who do not.

Read the rest of her brave open letter here.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    “A loyal friend important to me, a distinguished director, important to the motion picture industry, and a brave and brilliant man, important to all people”.

    Written, not tweeted, by Mia Farrow as a recommendation for Roman Polanski, after his arrest for rape.

  2. Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    My heart goes out to Dylan Farrow, who is clearly suffering. However, it is astonishing that anyone would hold out “the presumption of innocence” as a nod to rape culture without simultaneously acknowledging what it would mean to remove that presumption from public discourse. To those who say this a matter of the heart, rather than the mind (as Roxane Gay seems to believe) I ask you to consider the use of false rape allegations as a means of terror and oppression against people of color. Woody Allen does not need to represent those against whom these transgressions have historically been perpetrated for us to recognize that the presumption of innocence remains universally important.

  3. Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting. I had heard that Woody Allen had been accused of a crime, but I didn’t realize that crime was abuse of a child, and hearing from the survivor herself certainly drives home that severity. Will not be supporting Allen’s movies from now on.

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